Laying mash is a popular type of chicken feed and chickens love them. Without a doubt, it contains the right amount of protein and calcium that your chickens need. But is it really the right feed for your chickens? This complete guide will answer all your questions about laying mash.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Exactly is Laying Mash?
- 2 Common Ingredients of Laying Mash
- 3 Laying Mash Additives
- 4 Benefits of Laying Mash
- 5 Can Baby Chicks be Fed with Laying Mash?
- 6 Laying Mash vs Laying Pellets: Which One is Better?
- 7 Conclusion
What Exactly is Laying Mash?
Laying mash is a grain-based chicken feed that is formulated specifically for laying hens. Just like layer pellets, it has the right amounts of protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals that your chickens need during egg production. Nevertheless, the mash is made from crushed grain, and therefore smaller and easier to swallow, and chickens love it!
Also, many chicken farmers prefer laying mash over pellets simply because it is much cheaper. This is because they undergo fewer processes than pellets. Laying mash usually contains 15-20% protein, while laying pellets only contain 16% protein. This means that laying mash can help more in producing stronger eggs.
Laying mash contains various kinds of cracked grains that are a powdery mix, and therefore, can be fed wet or dry. This type of chicken feed has different ingredients and has no impurities whatsoever. However, they may vary depending on the manufacturer. This is why you should know about their details. Here are some of the common ones:
Common Ingredients of Laying Mash
Wheat is a very famous ingredient in laying mash because it is delicious and nutritious. This cereal grain is a predominant supplier of dietary energy for chickens. It has huge amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but low in amino acids. These high energy levels are great in helping pullets to lay eggs earlier than they should.
Ground Corn (Maize)
Corn is considered a standard ingredient of laying mash and has a sufficient amount of calories that can boost inactive chickens. Although it is not preferred to be given directly to chickens alone, mixing them with soybean meal will boost protein on the mash. However, corn is quite expensive because of its very high demand for humans.
Fishmeal is another excellent source of protein for chickens. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, minerals, a good balance of amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and vitamins such as biotin and choline. No wonder, it is widely used as a laying mash ingredient. However, protein will slowly break down if not stored properly.
Limestone is probably the most common source of calcium of all the ingredients of laying mash. Calcitic limestone contains 36-38% calcium while crushed limestone has only 33% calcium but contains lower amounts of magnesium. Nevertheless, this is good because excess magnesium decreases the growth and bone development of chickens.
Soybean meal is the most important source of protein in laying mash and in other kinds of chicken feed. Aside from protein, this extracted part of soybean oil is a great source of metabolizable energy. Nevertheless, dehulled soybean meal (outer cover is removed) contains more protein than the non-dehulled ones. They may contain 47-49% protein.
Also called milo, sorghum has almost the same nutrient profile as corn. However, its fat content and energy value are slightly lower as compared to corn. In the past, sorghum has been limited in laying mash due to the presence of tannins, which cause chickens to refuse feed. But today, most varieties have lower levels of tannins or totally none.
Laying Mash Additives
Additives are added to laying mash to meet the specific needs of chickens. They can be in the form of nutrients, minerals, or medication. They help improve the nutritional value of the feed, and as well as its physical properties to make them more suitable during processing and storage. Below are some of them as ingredients of laying mash.
Oxidation has been present in poultry feed for several years. It occurs when unsaturated fatty acids are being degraded once they are exposed to free oxygen. Therefore, it has a huge negative effect on the chicken’s growth and egg production. To prevent oxidation, antioxidants are being added to the feeds including laying mash.
#2 Feeding Enzymes
Chickens have natural enzymes inside their body to help in digesting food. However, they don’t have the required ability to produce sufficient quantities of specific enzymes. They also cannot reduce the anti-nutritional factors in feeds. Therefore, feed enzymes are being added so that these anti-nutritional factors will be broken simultaneously.
Probiotics were developed to be a great alternative for antibiotics. As we all know, the digestive system of chickens has two kinds of microbes or bacteria – the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones. Probiotics are specifically formulated to add nutrients to laying mash to keep the ‘good’ bacteria at higher levels than the ‘bad’ ones.
#4 Mold Inhibitors
Mold contamination in chicken feed usually occurs while handling the processed feed and storing them. Active molds contain poisonous chemical compounds called mycotoxins. Some organic acids have been developed to prevent mold growth but they were ineffective. Because of this, most laying mash today contains mycotoxin binders.
#5 Free-flowing Agents
The ingredients used in dry laying mash have different flow characteristics from each other. Therefore, they must flow easily in the feeders. Free-flowing agents are additives that prevent the feed from clumping or packing down. They have very fine particles that don’t react with the ingredients and help improve pourability.
Benefits of Laying Mash
With all the ingredients of laying mash mentioned above, it’s very clear that they offer lots of benefits for your chickens. Let’s summarize them.
#1 Eggs will have stronger eggshells
With the right combination of calcium and protein that laying mash has, eggshells will be thicker and stronger. This will not only help hens in producing healthier eggs; it will also reduce the possibility of broken eggs during collection, handling, and storage.
#2 Your hens will lay more eggs
The average number of eggs that hens lay mainly depends on their breed. However, other factors include weather conditions, maintenance of surroundings, and the kind of food they eat. Nevertheless, the nutrients from laying mash help hens maximize their egg production.
#3 Your pullets will start laying eggs on time
Pullets or young hens usually lay their first eggs once they reach between 16 and 24 weeks of age. While there may be lots of reasons why some of them are late bloomers, many chicken farmers who use laying mash claim that their hens lay their first eggs right on time.
Can Baby Chicks be Fed with Laying Mash?
The straight answer is No. As mentioned above, laying mash has a high content of protein and calcium (usually 2.5-3.5%) and is specifically designed for laying hens only. On the other hand, baby chicks only need 1.2% of calcium. Newly hatched chicks also have plenty of protein. Therefore, giving them more than what they need may lead to kidney failure.
Laying Mash vs Laying Pellets: Which One is Better?
When it comes to nutritional content, laying mash and laying pellets are almost the same. Now, let’s weigh the pros and cons if you decide to use mash instead of pellets.
Pros of Using Laying Mash
- Laying mash is much cheaper
- Expect more profit
- Can be fed wet or dry
- Easier to eat
- Faster to digest
Cons of Using Laying Mash
- Messy when wet
- Not ideal for chickens with crests or muffs
- Leftovers are difficult to remove
- More waste than pellets
- Not ideal for beginners
Laying mash may not be suitable for all kinds of chicken breeds and farmers. On the other hand, laying mash is the sure winner when it comes to economics and profit in the egg business. But at the end of the day, let your chickens decide. After all, they will be the ones to eat and feel the effect, not you. Nevertheless, you can help them decide.